Descants of the Soul

by Andy Wood on June 15, 2011

in Life Currency, Love, Words

There’s this song I want to tell you about.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  First I want to tell you why I want to tell you.  Or why you pass the word, purchase that ticket, read another book with that theme, or are drawn to a certain genre of storyline or TV show.

It’s all about the descants of the soul.

I don’t remember when I first noticed it or when I first mentioned it to somebody else, but it’s been a while.  I began to notice that there were certain movies I found myself drawn to.  No matter whether it was comedy, science fiction, intense drama or cheesy love stories, I found I was a sucker for stories where one person could make a profound difference.

It was my first discovery of the descants of the soul.

“Descant” is a musical term that in its most literal form means “a different song.”  More precisely, a descant is an independent, ornamental melody sung or played above the main theme in a piece of music.

In life, it’s the story behind the story.  The “song” that leaps from movies to music to conversations to dreams and has a way of knitting them all together.

A descant of the soul is an inner “melody” that sings to you – and through you to others.  I have found that it’s also one of the ways that the Lord can uniquely speak to you or get your attention more quickly.

Descants of the soul are recurring themes that move us, fascinate us, and sometimes call us to action or faith or risk or change.  Sometimes they reflect where our “wheels are turning” at a certain point.  Read Paul’s prison letters – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon – and you will find similar themes, but very different from Galatians or Romans.  Listen to different compositions of music from Beethoven or Bob Dylan from different time periods, you’ll find the composer following different themes at different seasons.

Profound Influence

Imagine my surprise.  I’d just been to see Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves.  And while the music and cinematography were breathtaking, and the political issues compelling, I kept wanting to talk about how these people – the Lakota Sioux – had made such a profound difference in John Dunbar’s life.

Mostly what I got in return were polite nods or blank stares.

Robin Williams’ therapist  character in Good Will Hunting also reached me, as did his roles Patch Adams and The Dead Poets Society.  Most recently, Geoffrey Rush’s portrayal of the completely unorthodox, unlicensed (gasp!) speech therapist Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech had the same effect.

All people who did the unorthodox in order to reach people and profoundly influence them.  To this day that resonates with me.

But it doesn’t resonate with everybody.  You have your own unique life themes – your own descants of the soul.

Powerful Abilities

Another descant of the soul I have noticed recently – people with uniquely powerful abilities.  A couple of new shows are headed this way in the fall (probably replacing similar departing shows) about people who have unusual natural or supernatural abilities.  I noticed a pattern – these things, if they’re even remotely plausible (and sometimes when they aren’t), have a certain allure to me.

Why?  Because they reflect a spiritual reality and a soul’s – my soul’s – yearning for supernatural power.  It’s a yearning grounded in reality (see “Holy Spirit”).  But what uniquely draws me may be completely different from the descants that sing to your soul.

Passionate Communication

Okay back to the song.  In the latest edition of my love/hate relationship with Glee, the New Directions have made it to the national finals, competing against the greatest show choirs in the country, including the evil enemy, Vocal Adrenaline.  The songs used for both choirs in the season finale were composed specifically for the show, and were all good.  But Vocal Adrenaline’s “As Long as I Know You’re There” spoke on a completely different level.  Deep.  Passionate.  Yeah, it’s a love song, but actually worshipful.  Descant stuff for me.  And it’s worth every penny of the $1.29 download from iTunes to get the full version.  (You can preview it here.)

All my life

I’ve waited for the right

Moment to let you know

I don’t wanna let you go

But now I’ve realized

There’s just no perfect time

To confess how I feel

This much I know is real

So I refuse to

Waste one more second without you

Knowing my heart

A major soul theme for me.  Don’t wait around for the words or timing to be perfect.  Don’t waste another second (or a life) in search of the perfect phrase or opportunity.  Seize or make today’s opportunities, with all their limitations and flaws, and express them.

All of the rest could just disappear

And I wouldn’t even care

As long as you’re there

Somewhere here the Descants call more loudly, crossing the line from love song to worship.  They speak about ordering our deepest priorities and expressing that first-love contentment and passion in a new and unique way.  The Bible phrase for that is “Sing a new song to the Lord.”

The pattern for me is in finding a way to use limited tools of expression (words in my case) to offer up praise, gratitude, and love.  Someone else could listen to that same song and hear a completely different descant.

There are other themes I’ve noticed along the way.  Some are life-long; others ebb and flow.  It also helps me to watch for the descants in the hearts of others.  I see themes emerging in others’ lives that don’t “sing” that much to me, and that’s a good thing.  It helps me understand them. Serve them.  Communicate with them.  In some cases, reach them.

Finding Your Descants

My grandmother loved what she used to call “purty things.”  Flowers.  Music.  Art.  It was one of the descants of her soul.  She also adored children, having spent a lifetime educating them, both on Sundays and at school throughout the week.  Another descant.

A friend of mine loves sports, but more than just scores and statistics, he is drawn to the story behind the story in sports world – particularly football.  It’s one of the descants of his soul.

I have seen people drawn to history, to simplicity, to decorating, or to the outdoors.  Some people come alive at the prospect of a hero story, a romantic love story, or a story of revenge.  I know people who are drawn to the idea of cross-cultural influence, medicine or healing, or leadership.  All of these and more are examples of descants of the soul.

The simplest way I can tell you to discover your descants is simply to watch for patterns or themes in several areas:

  • What interests or fascinates you?
  • What moves you – to tears, to anger, to passion?
  • What motivates you to take action?
  • What prompts you to spend time or money repeatedly?
  • What do you love to talk about or listen to?

Finding God in the Song

I mentioned earlier that descants of the soul are a means by which God can uniquely speak to you or get your attention more quickly.  That’s because descants often leverage our spiritual gifts, learning styles or life experiences to reveal God’s heart or the truth of His word.

Behind the noise and distractions, the descants of the soul are sending a signal.

You’d be wise to pay attention.

Evelyn June 15, 2011 at 10:32 pm

My descant — when God spills out of the hearts of others… through their precise and anointed words…
Thank you, and God continue to pour into you, Dr. Wood.

Andy Wood June 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Thank you for your always-kind encouragement… and I RECEIVE that! 🙂

Robyn Green November 20, 2021 at 6:08 am

Very thought provoking. Found this article after searching for info on what a descant of the soul is. Now….to tune into my own.

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